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Thank you for signing up for ALICE Awareness Week emails! Each day this week, we will challenge you to LEARN, REFLECT and ACT on issues impacting individuals and families in our local community who fall below the ALICE threshold.

ALICE Households earn above the Federal Poverty Level, but not enough to afford a bare-bones household budget. For these families, the cost of living outpaces what they earn. ALICE households can be made up of a young adult, aging senior, couples, families with children or multiple generations living under the same roof who live paycheck-to-paycheck. These households struggle to afford even their most basic needs - housing, food, transportation, child care, health care, and necessary technology - and often have no money left in their budget for savings.
A family surrounded by icons that represent all of their monthly expenses
The cost of living for individuals and families living below the ALICE Threshold is growing significantly, driven mainly by the rising cost of housing. Housing is the cornerstone to stability, but it is also the most expensive item in most families’ budget. Currently, the average income for an ALICE worker does not keep pace with the increase in housing costs. With a global pandemic wreaking havoc on our local and national economy, many jobs have been cut and hours slashed, leaving smaller paychecks to stretch farther across growing expenses.

Individuals and families living below the ALICE threshold — whether they are homeowners or renters — are challenged to find affordable units and often spend a disproportionate amount of their income on housing. As a result, they are frequently forced to make difficult choices or sacrifices in other areas of their lives. When funds run short, cash-strapped households are forced to make impossible choices, such as deciding between quality child care or paying the rent, filling a prescription or fixing the car.

For many individuals and families living both above and below the ALICE threshold, finding affordable housing in our local area is tough. Without safe, convenient, and local affordable housing, families cannot maintain stability in other areas of life like school and work attendance, or access to health care and healthy food. Many folks end up facing long commutes to work, the inability to save for emergencies, and excessive stress.

Nationwide, the number of households that are severely rent burdened (with rent accounting for more than 50% of their income) is projected to grow by at least 11%, to 13.1 million households, by 2025. (United for ALICE)
Monthly Housing Costs and ALICE Worker Wage, 2017
The Housing Choice Voucher program from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) assists eligible low-income families and individuals with the cost of their rent. Participants choose housing to rent in the open market and pay a portion of the rent based on their income. The rest of the rent is paid directly to the landlord by Harrisonburg Redevelopment & Housing Authority. Many individuals and families living below the ALICE Threshold have been approved for housing assistance and are looking for a safe and affordable place to rent, but are unable to find one.

Starting July 1, 2020, the Virginia Fair Housing Law has been updated to add “discrimination based on a person’s source of funds'” to the list of unlawful discriminatory housing practices. The term “source of funds” includes any source that lawfully provides funds on behalf of a renter regardless of whether funding is through governmental or non-governmental agencies. This includes funding through the Housing Choice Voucher Program.

Housing-related issues impact many individuals and families living below the ALICE threshold, especially communities of color. Residential portions of the northeast part of the city of Harrisonburg were demolished in the 1950s and 60s in an effort to redevelop downtown areas in a process known as “urban renewal” causing many households to be displaced from their homes. This area of the city was home to many families of different races and ethnicities, and was seen by many as the center of the Black community. Read more on the Northeast Neighborhood Association’s website.

Whether you rent or own your home, housing costs can take up a large portion of many families’ budgets. “...The two stated pillars of American housing policy—homeownership as wealth-building and housing affordability—are fundamentally at odds.” Read more... 

Read more about the Consequences of Insufficient Income on Housing:
Stop and think about your own housing situation.
  • What neighborhood do you live in? Why do you live there?
  • What percentage of your household budget do you spend on housing expenses? What costs does that include? Rent, mortgage, insurance, utilities, upkeep, maintenance, landscaping, furnishings, décor.
  • What would you do if your household experienced a sudden loss of income and your current housing costs no longer fell within your household budget?
  • What steps would you need to take to ensure you could continue living in a safe home?
Accept Housing Choice Vouchers - More landlords are needed in our local community to accept Housing Choice Vouchers. Are you a local landlord or property manager? Do you know one? Want to do your part to help address the affordable housing crisis while receiving consistent monthly income? Consider accepting Housing Choice Vouchers! Learn more… 

The City of Harrisonburg has contracted with a consultant to conduct a Comprehensive Housing Assessment and Market Study Project. The study will include collecting and analyzing data on many topics, including: demographics; economic conditions; financial gaps; and barriers. There will be a public meeting to present major findings and an opportunity for public input on November 12, 2020. Attend to learn more! Learn more… 

United Way COVID Impact Survey – United Way of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County is partnering with other United Ways across Virginia to gather information on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our local communities. The survey is electronic and can be completed on a mobile device or paper copies are available by contacting UWHR. Available in English and Spanish.

Learn more about nonprofit organizations in our community and the work they do to support individuals and families experiencing housing issues and homelessness in our local area:

  • Mercy House operates a family shelter, provides rehousing assistance and temporary rental assistance to people in financial crisis and those experiencing homelessness.

  • Open Doors provides an emergency shelter for individuals over the age of 18 experiencing homelessness who might otherwise have nowhere else to go. Shelter locations rotate throughout the area.

  • The Salvation Army offers an emergency shelter, food pantry and programs for individuals and families who are in need of support during times of crisis.
Did you learn something? Have an insightful reflection? Were you inspired to take action? Feel free to forward this email on to someone you know who may be interested in reading. Folks can continue to Sign Up for more emails throughout the week.